Election Day Vignettes

A White River Township resident showed up to vote, but poll workers scanned his driver’s license and found out he lived too far west, outside city limits.

He put his license back in his wallet and left.

That was a fairly common occurrence at the White River library, where about 20 voters were turned away by 10 a.m. because they didn’t live in a city or town with races on the ballot. By that time, just more than 40 were able to vote.

Residents who live in unincorporated areas of White River Township aren’t voting this year, but several still showed up to the library, which sits just within the western border of Greenwood.

It’s a change of pace for poll workers here, since the library is typically one of the busiest vote centers during countywide elections. Inspector Kelly Porter was alphabetizing voter slips to keep busy while waiting to order a sandwich for lunch. Other poll workers tried to figure out a crossword clue about the Ramones in the day’s newspaper.

“It doesn’t look very good for turnout,” Greenwood voter Linda Birdcell said after seeing the empty vote center.

Birdcell wanted to make sure to vote in races for the mayor and city council, who will be running the city. She’s lived in Greenwood for 26 years, thinks the city is growing nicely and approves of what Mayor Mark Myers had done during his first term in office.

— Steve Garbacz

It’s always feast or famine

A line of candidates greeted voters coming into one of Greenwood’s busiest voting centers.

Many of the Greenwood candidates seeking offices or people helping with their campaigns lined the path into the Greenwood Community Center, making one last push to get votes.

The community center was one of the busiest voting locations, so candidates gravitated there to shake hands, pass out treats and ask for a vote. By comparison, at Rocklane Christian Church one person promoted an at-large candidate.

“It was like a runway,” Greenwood voter Kara Baker said. “I kind of enjoyed it. It was neat.”

Several voters used a side exit to get back to the parking lot after voting.

— Steve Garbacz

Busy, busy, busy

The epicenter for voting in Johnson County on election day was the Greenwood Community Center.

Heading into the final hour of voting, more than 700 people had come through to cast their ballot, poll inspector Steve Young said.

The activity was constant throughout the day, and most of the time all voting machines were in use, Young said. As more people left work for the day, the expectation was that there would be one more big push before polls closed.

“Greenwood has more contested offices up for this election, which is probably why there have been so many people voting compared to other areas,” Young said.

The community center didn’t experience any problems with voting machines Tuesday, and the only hiccup was people from outside city limits coming in to vote, when they weren’t eligible to cast a ballot in this year’s election, Young said.

— Ryan Trares

Exercising their rights

Although the Hills have five candidates’ election signs stuck in their front yard, the Franklin residents were unable to vote for three of them.

Drew Eggers, John Wales and Ken Austin all have their moral support, but because Mike and Connie Hill live in District 1, they couldn’t vote for them.

“I really wrestled with that,” Connie Hill said. “I almost didn’t come out to vote today because the races are all uncontested.”

But the Hills agreed that they should vote, regardless of who or what is on the ballot, because it is their right as an American.

“If someone told me I wasn’t able to vote, I’d be upset,” Mike Hill said.

— Abby Armbruster

Lessons in citizenship

Three Franklin Community High School students got a pass from classes Tuesday to campaign for a family friend.

Katie Hotopp, cousin Morgan Hotopp and Anna Patarino encouraged voters to vote for John Wales for Franklin City Council, since they are not old enough to vote for him. Wales is a family friend, has been involved with the school on the school board for two terms and has two children who go to Franklin schools, Morgan Hotopp said.

“This is something that we can do to support him since we can’t vote,” Katie Hotopp said.

The girls were campaigning at the city’s recreation center, where about 70 people had voted about five hours after the polls opened. Inspector Ray Scott expected a low turnout, since few candidates are running, but expected the polling center to pick up when people got out of work.

The girls knew it would be a long day, so they brought a speaker to listen to music while holding signs for about seven hours.

As a thank-you for volunteering, the girls were treated to a meal from Taco Bell.

— Abby Armbruster

Family affair

Waiting in tents outside Turning Point Church entrance, Molly Rhoades and Paula Wales kept count of the voters by tallying a piece of paper.

About 140 people had come to vote by midafternoon on Election Day.

“I was under the impression this was going to be one of our lower-turnout balloting places, so it’s reassuring,” Rhoades said.

She was supporting her mother, Franklin clerk-treasurer candidate Jayne Rhoades.

Wales had flown in from Miami on Monday night to support her brother, Franklin City Council District 3 candidate John Wales.

“When people walk up, I introduce myself and ask them to vote for John. It’s all about talking with folks and finding out how they’re doing, what’s going in the world,” she said.

— Ryan Trares

‘Squeaky clean’

The faces and names of Greenwood’s current city council members were blocked out with strips of blue tape at the Greenwood City Center on Tuesday.

The city council map hangs on the wall in the council chambers just to the side of the table where voters checked in before casting ballots. But Indiana election law bans candidates from promoting themselves within 50 feet of a polling site, and poll workers are supposed to send people to change if they are wearing any buttons or T-shirts promoting candidates inside a vote center.

So poll workers blocked out the council members’ names and faces, since five were in contested races this spring.

“We’re supposed to be squeaky clean. We’re supposed to be neutral,” inspector Allen Distler said.

City offices were open on Election Day, so city employees were coming in and out of the building along with voters casting ballots.

It’s the first time city center has been used as a vote center. It was added this year to replace Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, which couldn’t be used for voting.

Fifty-two people had voted in the first three hours the polls were open, and only a handful more trickled in over the next hour, which might be because voters didn’t know they could vote at city hall, Distler said.

–Steve Garbacz

Slow and slower

For the first two hours of voting, Rocklane Christian Church averaged one vote per hour.

By 8 a.m., three voters had shown up, but one had to be turned away because she didn’t live in a community that’s voting this spring, vote center inspector Jerry Ashby said.

Only voters who live in Greenwood, Franklin and Whiteland were eligible to vote in the primary election.

“It’s been really slow here,”Ashby said.

The church is located a few miles east of Greenwood and is usually a slower site, said Ashby, who has worked here before. During busier, countywide elections, the site sometimes gets the overflow of people who don’t want to wait at Jonathan Byrd’s.

But with fewer eligible voters, Ashby expected a slow day.

“That’s what’s odd about this election is you only have certain districts that are eligible,” he said.

–Steve Garbacz

Oops. Not today

Five cars rolled around the parking lot of a Greenwood restaurant, with drivers craning their heads looking for signs of voting.

Typically one of Greenwood’s most popular vote centers, Jonathan Byrd’s wasn’t used for voting this spring due to a scheduling conflict.

Voters either had to head east on Main Street to Rocklane Christian Church or head west to the Greenwood Community Center or city center to vote.

–Steve Garbacz

New experience

For many voters, the trip to the polls was their first visit to Greenwood City Center, which opened last year.

Voters stopped to admire paintings in the lobby, glanced up the center stairwell and looked around the newly renovated council chambers on their way to the voting machines.

“This is our first time,” said Greenwood voter Doreen Lutz, who was joined by her husband Ron. “It is pretty nice.”

The couple typically voted at Jonathan Byrd’s, but since that site was not open this election, they decided to come downtown.

Doreen Lutz wanted to support candidates who were against a new food and beverage tax in Greenwood.

The city could use more police and firefighters, she said, but Greenwood residents already pay a food and beverage tax for Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.

“I just hope they don’t raise the sales tax,” she said.

— Steve Garbacz

Crush never arrived

The end-of-the-day rush never came to the vote center at Greenwood City Center.

Poll workers expected a final busy period before voting closed on Election Day. But that rush never materialized, Allen Distler, poll inspector, said.

“We thought it might, but since they opened the voting centers where you can vote anywhere, I’m assuming most people have already voted,” he said.

With just 30 minutes left to vote, 248 people had cast their ballots. A handful of those were first-time voters, whom Distler and the other poll workers congratulated with a round of applause.

Another voter brought in three small children with her for an impromptu civics lesson.

“She brought them in to learn a little bit about what the voting process is like and to encourage them about how important voting is,” Distler said.

Distler expects a greater turnout in 2016 for the presidential and other state and national races.

— Ryan Trares

‘An awkward place’

With two hours left to vote, just under 100 people had come to vote at a Whiteland vote center.

But poll workers at the Clark Pleasant library had to turn 29 people away, since they were from New Whiteland and couldn’t vote in this election, inspector Shayla Henderson said.

Only 62 people had been able to cast votes there by midafternoon.

“We were hoping for more people, but it’s not the big election. It’s still a very important election, and people have tried to vote, but they weren’t able to,” Henderson said.

The hope was that toward the end of voting, closer to 5 p.m., more people would come in to cast their ballot as they get off work. But poll workers still anticipated a disappointing turnout.

“We’re kind of in an awkward place where you can’t see us from U.S. 31,” Henderson said. “Hopefully, people called and found out that you can vote here.”

— Ryan Trares

Help was nearby

Residents who stopped by the county courthouse to vote had a new place to go this year.

Every year, voters come to the courthouse, where they can cast ballots early in the days before the election. But on Election Day, the courthouse and all county offices are closed.

This year is the first time the nearby library service center was open for voters. By 2 p.m., 78 people had voted there. With voter turnout low, inspector Sandy Weddle and her four volunteers were chatting and catching up throughout the day.

Weddle was also comforted that the county’s information technology team was just across the street in the courthouse if anything went awry.

— Abby Armbruster

Covering the bases

Franklin City Council candidate John Wales had been racing around since 4:30 a.m.

He set up tents for his campaign workers at three of the four vote centers in the city and parked classic cars at each location to remind voters of his work with the Blake Dickus Memorial Car Show.

Wales had a minimum of two supporters at each vote center. If one center got busier than others, he drove over to answer questions or say hello before residents go in to vote.

— Abby Armbruster

‘Light but steady’

The eight voting machines were never all full at the same time, but the community center was easily the busiest site in Greenwood on Tuesday morning.

A line of four to five voters formed at times at the check-in station while two poll workers signed people in, but then they were quickly guided to machines to vote and be on their way.

The site wasn’t nearly as busy as it was in the fall or in past countywide elections, but the stream of voters had been pretty constant throughout the morning.

The site hadn’t gotten busy enough to consider opening any extra machines, vote center inspector Steve Young said. The line never got more than a few people long at any time in the morning, he said.

“It’s a little light but steady turnout. It’s picked up since 8 a.m.,” Young said. “I was told this would be one of the busier locations.”

About 25 voters showed up in a 15-minute period about 9 a.m., and the site had been that busy throughout the morning. By comparison, city center had about 50 voters in the first three hours of voting, and the White River library had just 42 voters in four hours.

–Steve Garbacz

Author photo
Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.